Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Real Christianity changes lives. It’s impossible for us to have a real relationship with Jesus the living God of Heaven and not have our lives changed. It’s impossible for us to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and not have evidence of that change in our behavior. Because it’s the Holy Spirit whose work in our lives makes us a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord. James is telling us it’s impossible not to have any evidence of transformation in our day to day lives. And that is the message James is conveying in this last passage as he summarizes chapter one. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God changes our hearts. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who begins His work of sanctification in our lives. Sanctification is the process whereby God changes our hearts and our minds. God replaces our heart of stone as the Bible tells us with a heart of flesh. And by doing so He makes us more sensitive to the things of God and His will in our lives. In addition God fills us with an inexplicable joy and love for His word and those in need around us. Prior to our salvation, we were dead in our trespasses and sins, our spirit’s were dead to God and we were unable to save ourselves.
However, with our salvation God has given us a new spirit that is sensitive to God and the things of God. And with the process of sanctification, the Holy Spirit works with our new spirit to make us a new creation in Christ. And because of these changes it’s our joy to serve the Lord and seek out the lost in this dark and dying world. James uses the widow and the orphan as extremes in his example. This is because they both perfectly represent the heart of the Christian. Both were considered the most needy and helpless of society. Neither could repay in any way for the help and charity given to them. Moreover, neither the widow, nor the orphan could have benefited anyone politically or socially, and that’s the point James is making. We help them because it’s our joy to do so, we help them because of the new heart given to us by the Lord Himself. Therefore, anyone who truly loves the Lord and has a relationship with Jesus will have a heart for those in need. This is because our faith brings God’s work in us. This in turn gives us a heart for those in need, especially the widow and the orphan. And that’s what James is telling us by inference from the preceding verses. James says those who only help themselves or help those from whom they obtain gain later have a false system of works. They deceive themselves and have no relationship with Christ Jesus our Lord.